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Small Business Guide: Top Tips to Streamline the Order Fulfillment Process

Nov 28, 2018

Order Fulfillment ProcessStreamlining the order fulfillment process doesn’t just save you time and effort. It saves you money. Here are our top tips for streamlining fulfillment.

Order fulfillment is long on details. You’ve got to deal with supply chain logistics, inventory management, and shipping partners. All of those things make it easy to forget the critical role order fulfillment plays in customer service.

After all, customers sit at both ends of the process. They place the orders that trigger fulfillment. Then, they wait for order delivery on the other end.

Given that businesses lose around $75 billion a year to poor customer service, you want every customer service advantage you can get. Streamlining your fulfillment process offers one way to gain an advantage.

Keep reading and we’ll cover some essential tips for streamlining that process.

Make Paying Easier

The cart abandonment rate of around 75% remains a problem for all online sellers. The sources of cart abandonment vary, but payments loom large.

The primary concern for some is security. With data breaches showing up left and right, people worry about their financial information.

Others leave because they can’t use their preferred payment method. Some people only use one form of payment online. If they can’t use it, they just won’t buy.

Still others leave because they can’t pay in their local currency. This stops a lot of would-be international buyers.

Most people possess an intuitive understanding of their own currency. That lets them understand the cost of a product at a glance. When purchase details only appear in a foreign currency, customers hesitate.

Yes, they could find a currency exchange calculator, but most won’t. More to the point, that makes them leave the purchase page. Every off page activity they do vastly increases the odds they won’t come back.

Use a shopping cart that translates prices and shipping into local currency. Select a well-known payment processor that allows payments in local currencies.

This simplifies payments for everyone and eases security concerns. Plus, major payment processors probably support the majority of payment options.

System Integration – Part 1

Too many businesses still run separate software packages for different aspects of the business. On its own, that’s not obviously a problem. It would make sense that specialized software handle specialized tasks better, right?

What makes it a problem is that the different pieces of software often can’t talk to each other.

Separate software systems mean orders must get delivered to the warehouse and then shipped to the customer manually. Either someone calls the orders over to the warehouse or creates a stack of paper invoices. It’s a recipe for errors or lost orders.

Integrated systems allow seamless delivery of orders from the shopping cart on your website to your warehouse. The warehouse runs off clean copies of invoices, packages, and ships.

System Integration – Part 2

Fulfillment problems don’t always start on the website or in the warehouse. Your warehouse can only ship inventory that’s in stock. Vendors can only deliver the inventory you order.

Good supply chain management, inventory control, and demand planning need accessible data. In systems that don’t talk with each other, that means downloading data and converting it into another format. Then you must import it into an analytics program.

That data movement process proves inefficient in itself. Plus, it creates opportunities for new errors.

System integration consolidates your pool of data. That makes the data immediately available for all analytics and projection purposes.

You can track historical trends to develop baseline demand planning. Then, you pair that baseline up with demand shaping projects for inventory management over time.

Look for Automation Opportunities

The word automation often makes business owners shudder. They picture huge infrastructure investments that require lots of liquid capital.

The reality is that automation can happen at lots of levels and price points.

For example, many software packages support app integration. Inventory control systems often use scanners or apps loaded onto phones/tablets to speed up the check-in process.

You should always review any automation options before launching them. Automation for automation’s sake isn’t beneficial.

Automation should provide an immediate uptick in efficiency on a key metric, such as pick accuracy or orders per hour. It should also show a reasonable, demonstrable return on investment period.

A conveyor system might sound great on paper, but it gets a lot less wonderful if the ROI takes 5 years.

Outsource

Outsourcing to an order fulfillment service frees you from many of the issues the streamlining tips above address.

For example, you don’t deal with automation initiatives. The fulfillment provider takes on responsibility for researching the options. They also manage paying for those improvements.

They deal with much of the data collection. They track key performance indicators like pick accuracy, orders-per-hour, and total throughput.

It’s also on them to report order shipping, log tracking numbers, and handle returns. They do internal inventory tracking.

You do still need a system that integrates with the fulfillment services existing IT structure. After all, it doesn’t help you much if you can get at all the data they collect in a day.

Outsourcing fulfillment also provides some secondary, but important, benefits.

You’re off the hook for finding the right staff. Most businesses specialize in things other than order fulfillment. That means they don’t know the right kinds of questions to ask potential employees.

A fulfillment service knows precisely the right kind of employees to hire, which makes them more efficient out of the gate.

You also get spared the agony of the efficiency learning curve in order fulfillment. Someone else has already done it, so why reinvent the wheel?

Parting Thoughts on Streamlining Your Fulfillment Process

Streamlining your order fulfillment process can take a couple different paths.

You can choose incremental improvement options. Making payments easier and low-level automation fall into this category. These options often prove more affordable for smaller businesses.

System integration and outsourcing fall into the grand scale improvement category. These options seek the maximum improvement in the shortest period of time.

Large-scale changes typically serve larger and fast-growing companies better. Larger and fast-growing companies often find it easier to secure the liquid capital necessary to support the changes.

Fulfilltopia specializes in order fulfillment and product distribution. To learn more about our fulfillment services, please contact us today.

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“Good service, reliable and flexible. Good communication and systems know how”

“We’ve had a great experience with Fulfilltopia. They’ve been flexible to fit our needs and hhelped us establish a previously non-existent supply chain for our business”

“Prompt, courteous service. Warehouse staff is attentive, orders are shipped in a timely manner. Issues are immediately addressed”

“Good service, reliable and flexible. Good communication and systems know how”

“Prompt, courteous service. Warehouse staff is attentive, orders are shipped in a timely manner. Issues are immediately addressed”

“We’ve had a great experience with Fulfilltopia. They’ve been flexible to fit our needs and hhelped us establish a previously non-existent supply chain for our business”